Following the State of California’s landmark passage of a $6 billion investment in broadband infrastructure, the California Community Foundation has released an initial analysis and guide for county broadband policy leads. The briefing paper, entitled Initial Analysis and Guidance on County Policy Stemming from California’s Historic New Broadband Budget and Policy, was developed on behalf of a coalition of broadband advocates that includes the Rural County Representatives of California, California State Association of Counties, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others as part of an overall digital equity initiative. The brief is intended to provide counties with an overview of the legislation, the opportunities it presents, and details on important next steps.
In July 2021 the State of California passed SB 156 following a coalition effort to expand broadband access for all. The legislation provides $3.25 billion to construct a statewide open-access middle mile network; $2 billion, including $1 billion specifically for rural communities, for last-mile network construction; and, $750 million for a loan loss reserve to leverage additional broadband infrastructure investments from local governments, tribal governments, and non-profits. These investments will aid in increased connectivity and affordability for all by making it easier for more internet providers to provide faster, cheaper service throughout the state and creating opportunities for more entities to build last-mile infrastructure in more places.
With so much money and opportunity on the line, a sense of urgency has emerged. However, the brief encourages county partners and economic development professionals to await further details of this historic legislation to be established before moving forward and making any commitments. County leaders have time to make decisions about how to invest American Rescue Plan Act dollars and examine how they can be leveraged and/or used in new ways as a result of this legislation. RCRC encourages all to read the brief and share it with appropriate decision-makers within your county or organization.